There it is, folks, the highest unemployment rate for ACS members since they started doing the survey in 1972. I should note that the ACS surveyers will ask you about your employment status for a particular period of time, which (in this case) is March 2011. The historical data comes from the C&EN summaries of the ACS Salary Survey data.
More bad news to come? I've long noted that the BLS unemployment rate for chemists and the ACS unemployment rate more-or-less tracks. So this is ominous:
According to BLS, the unemployment rate for 2011 among “chemists and materials scientists” was 6.1%. “As the BLS rate is an average for the entire year, and the ACS 2011 number is based on employment status at one point in time, the BLS number may indicate that the ACS 2012 rate will exceed 4.6%,” says Elizabeth McGaha, manager of research and member insights in M&SA.
McGaha also points out, however, that over the past 40 years ACS member unemployment has often peaked one year after the U.S. peak. The exception to this pattern was in the early 1990s, when the ACS rate continued to rise for four years after U.S. unemployment began to drop.It is my assumption that while the rise and fall in the unemployment rate of chemists is cyclical, the overall drop in US employment of chemists may indeed be structural. Therefore, I expect that the ACS unemployment rate will continue to rise for the foreseeable future, reflecting what we saw in the 1990s, but worse.
What about postdocs?: This is also an interesting comment from Baum and McGaha:
Along with the rise in unemployment, ACS chemists reported a notable drop in postdoc positions—only 1.8% of ACS members held postdocs in 2011 compared with 4.0% in 2010.I'm really confused by this development. Are people dropping out of the chemistry pipeline, or is this just some weird artifact? Dunno.
Salaries coming back? From the article:
Chemists’ salaries, however, rebounded slightly in 2011 after falling from 2009 to 2010 and are keeping pace with inflation, McGaha says. For the first year since 2008, the median salaries of chemists were up for all degree levels in 2011.This is good news (?), but I don't know what it means until we see some actual numbers. I'll keep you posted.